The Varalakshmi Vrata, literally means the worship of goddess who grants the boon. It is an important puja performed by many women in the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and many parts of Tamil Nadu. This festival is also known as `Mahalakshmi Vrata` and is observed on the last Friday of the bright fortnight in the month of Asadha or sravana, which corresponds to the English months of July-August.
Eight forces are recognized in the Hindu shastras, each one of which is called a lakshmi and all of them together are called `Astalakshmi`. These eight forces or energies are- Sri (Wealth), Bhu (Earth), Sarasvati (learning), Priti (love), Kirti (Fame), Santi (Peace), Tushti(Pleasure) and Pushti(Strength).Vishnu is called Ashta Lakshmi Padhi which means he is the asylum for eight Lakshmis. In reality Vishnu represents the preservative aspect of the universe, from whom the eight forces are radiated. Since Abstract force is beyond the comprehension of the common people these forces are personified and worshipped as Lakshmis. Worship of Lakshmi is said to bring health, wealth and prosperity. As Goddess Lakshmi is woman, she can easily sympathize with woman. Hence women, seeking the blessings of the goddess on them, their husbands and their children, largely observe this Vrata.
There are many legends behind the Varalakshmi Vrata. This puja was pronounced by no other than Lord Parameshvara himself to be performed by his consort Parvati to bring the prosperity and happiness for their divine family. Thus married women who seek Varam or boons for their health, wealth and knowledge for the entire family simulate this Vrata. In some cases the women also pray for having children. The particular day appointed for the puja is the Friday of the month of Sravana in the fortnight of Shukla Paksha (increasing lunar phase) preceding full moon day.
There is also a fascinating story behind the Vrata. Once Parvati and Parameshvara were playing chess. Parvati was winning the games but the Lord claimed himself to be the winner. So Parvati wanted to have an umpire and they employed one Chitranemi (a creation of Parameshvara) for this purpose. But the Chitranemi did unjustified partiality to the Lord. This provoked Parvati`s rage and she cursed the Chitranemi that he would become a leper. When the Chitranemi begged for the goddess`s forgiveness and parameshvara added his entreaties to it, Parvati modified the curse by saying that he would be cured of the loathsome disease if he observes Varalakshmi Vrata.
The history of varalakshmi Vrata is also very interesting. Laksmi appeared before a pious woman named Sarmadhi in her dreams, who lived in a city of Kuntinapura in Magadha(nowadays in Bihar).Lakshmi expressed her satisfaction at her devotion to children. When the lady woke up from sleep, she took a bath and worshipped the goddess to assure her blessings. When other ladies came to know about her dreams they too began worshipping Goddess Mahalakshmi and the custom spreaded everywhere in course of time.
There is also another history. In the kingdom of Magadha, there lived a Brahmin woman called Charumathi in a town named Kundina, where she used to live with her husband and family. She served devotedly to her husband and parents-in-law. Goddess Lakshmi was satisfied by her piety and gave her visit in her dreams to fulfill her wishes. She prescribed the Friday of Sravana for the Puja. When Charumathi explains her dream to the family, they encouraged her to perform the puja. Many other women joined Charumathi for the puja and they offered many sweet dishes to the goddess. All the woman were wearing beautiful Sarees and jewelries, rewarded the priest and took part in a feast after the puja is accomplished. They prayed with deep devotion: "Padmaasane Padmakare Sarva Lokaika Poojjth Narayana Priyadevi Supreethaa Bhava Sarvada."
The Varalakshmi Vrata can be done with no restriction to caste and creed. Even in the modern times, many women observe this Vrata with great faith.